Majority of persons with Parkinson’s Disease in Uganda, particularly in Jinja District in Eastern Uganda, are persons who are advanced in age. As a policy matter, most Parkinson’s Disease older persons face many life challenges, including lack of proper Parkinson’s Disease medication, poverty, poor housing, and illiteracy,
Poverty particularly is problematic. We’ve already pointed out Uganda is one of the poorest countries in world. This poverty handicap translates into income inability to access basic needs such as medication, food, and shelter.
In our region, persons with Parkinson’s Disease severely are challenged in accessing basic survival needs, requiring them to rely on on their extended family, but the extended family safety valve steadily has been eroded through premature deaths from a host of tropical diseases…TB, HIV, heart, cancer. Thus, a majority of PDers have to fend for themselves in a debilitated condition. Add to this high rates of illiteracy, PDers are prone to accept myths and superstitions about PD.
This is why outreach is a critical component of our Foundation. Treating parkinson’s requires a team approach involving not only the person living with PD but also family members, the physician and other health care professionals. These efforts must be accompanied by dissemination of basic PD information in a form that even an illiterate person can understand.
A case in point is that of Matilda Nakkazi, 53, a mother of 10. She lives in Ggangu, in Makindye Sub County in Wakiso District.
For the past 12 years, she has been battling Parkinson’s disease, a neurological syndrome which characterised by constant shaking of the thumbs and fingers, and constant rigid muscles.
PD is a disorder of the central nervous system, that normally affects people who are 50+.
Nakkazi says she experiences persistent shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking.
Before a diagnosis was carried out at Mulago hospital, Nakkazi thought she had been bewitched since doctors had initially failed to diagnose her condition.
Nakkazi: “Before I came to Mulago hospital, I was using herbal medicine which did not work. Now I have got some relief.
She is currently undergoing palliative care, which she says has relieved her of pain. She is currently receiving treatment at Mulago hospital, and says she has kept a strong faith in God, and believes that one day she will be healed of her condition. For now she engages in regular exercise routines to keep fit and healthy.
Dr Simon Peter Eyoku from Mulago hospital explains that Parkinson’s disease is a rare disease whose specific cause is not exactly known, although a few cases have been attributed to genetic factors. In Uganda, because it is a rare disease, it is not known how many people suffer from the condition.
Besides genetics, environmental factors also may play a role in PD development.
Dr Eyoku reveals that although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, medications, surgery and palliative care can offer relief from some of the symptoms that are commonly associated with the condition.
For some patients, a drug called Levodopa can be used to manage symptoms, and in Uganda, it has so far been the most common drug used. Dr Eyoku adds that surgery is no longer commonly used in managing PD.
Jury is still out on how PD can be prevented. However, Dr Eyoku explains PD may be prevented by drinking caffeinated drinks. Avoiding exposure to herbicides and pesticides also may help reduce risk of contracting PD. Even smoking tobacco has been found to have a neuro-therapeutic effect.
Dr Eyoku further explains that consuming foods rich in flavonoids, such as berries, apples, orange juice and red wine are also known to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Research has also linked the development of PD to reduced oestrogen levels. This may explain why menopausal women who do not take hormone replacement therapy are more likely to develop PD.